VOLLEYBALL FALLS AT MONTANA, IS ELIMINATED FROM BIG SKY TOURNAMENT CONTENTION
MISSOULA, Mont. -- Jaimie Thibeault (20 kills, .444) and Brittany Quick (13 kills, .385) combined for 33 kills and a .419 hitting percentage to lead Montana to a five-set victory (23-25, 25-22, 25-21, 16-25, 15-4) over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference volleyball match Friday evening at West Auxiliary Gym.
The loss was the third straight for the Hornets (15-14, 5-8) and eliminated the team from Big Sky Tournament contention for the first time in school history. Sacramento State had advanced to the Big Sky’s postseason event 13 straight years, and every season since joining the league in 1996. With three matches remaining in the season, the postseason streak will come to an end as the Hornets are now 2.5 games behind fourth-place Montana (12-13, 8-6) and the Grizzlies own the tiebreaker.
In years past, the top six teams in the league reached the Big Sky Tournament, but that number of teams was decreased to four in 2009. With the Hornets assured of finishing no higher than fifth place, the team’s season will end before the Thanksgiving holiday for just the third time in the last 29 years.
The Big Sky Tournament field is now set, as Portland State, Northern Colorado, Eastern Washington and Montana will each jockey for position over the final week and a half of the regular season.
After winning the fourth frame by a convincing 25-16 margin, the Hornets seemingly had all the momentum heading into the fifth set. That momentum, however, didn’t last long as Montana won the first four points of the fifth and eventually opened up a 10-1 lead before settling for the 15-4 victory. In that fifth set, Sacramento State had just one kills with six errors in 19 total attacks (-.263 hitting percentage). Conversely, the Grizzlies had eight kills and hit .500 in the decisive frame, including multiple kills from Stephanie Turner (3), Whitney Hobbs (2) and setter Taryn Wright (2).
Montana finished the match hitting .246 and dominated play at the net, finishing with 13.0 team blocks compared to just 2.0 for the Hornets. Thibeault finished with a match-high seven blocks. Sacramento State finished with 95 digs, but hit just .152 and had trouble putting up a potent block all night long. After hitting .314 in the first set, the Hornets failed to hit anything better than .196 in any of the final four frames.
The Grizzlies had 93 digs, including 38 from Brittney Brown (third most in school history) and 23 from Turner. The two teams combined for just seven service aces all evening, including two from Montana and five from Sacramento State.
Three Hornets had double-doubles, comprised of senior Desiree Hoyum (20 kills, 14 digs), freshman Janelle Currey (19 kills, 18 digs) and senior setter Melissa Melcher (49 assists, 14 digs). Junior Maddison Thivierge added 10 kills and a .333 hitting percentage (10-1-27), and was the only Hornet (with more than one kill) to hit better than .200.
Five Sacramento State players had double figures in digs, comprised of sophomore Breanne Menees (20), freshman Sydney Kordic (season-high 19), Currey, Hoyum and Melcher. No Hornet had more than one block and Kordic tallied two aces to go along with her 19 digs.
Sacramento State will play its final road match of the season tomorrow when the team travels to Bozeman to take on Montana State at 6 p.m. PST.